Atiku, Turaki turn S-South: Two of the leading presidential aspirants on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have between them shared the loyalties of principal stakeholders of the party in its major strongholds in the South-South and South-East geo-political zones.
While former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, according to multiple sources, seems to have taken the dominance in the South-East, former Special Duties Minister, Tanimu Turaki, has taken the ascendancy in the South-South.
The recent entry of Senator Bukola Saraki and Governor Aminu Tambuwal into the party is, however, said to be shaking the fidelity of the party’s leaders in the region towards Turaki.
Atiku’s pre-eminence, Vanguard gathered, was partly helped by the dangle of the vice-presidential ticket to South-East governors and his longstanding political relationships with some prominent Ibo political leaders. In the Edo/Delta region, political associates of Chief Tony Anenih, including former Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, are working for Turaki.
Loyalty of former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, who is a major influence in the party in the region has not been open, but a key associate, Chief Steve Oru, is embedded in the Turaki campaign and is the deputy director-general, South for the Turaki Campaign Organisation.
Turaki’s political ascendancy, Vanguard gathered, became a concern for the Atiku campaign after the former rolled out an estimated 150 SUVs for its national campaign.
“The vehicles are to be used for the national campaign since we believe that the ticket is ours,” a reliable source in the Turaki campaign told Vanguard. The inclination of Senator Ike Ekweremadu towards the two men, Hope For Nigeria gathered, is said to be open.
“We don’t know where Ekweremadu is as he is neither here nor there,” a party chieftain said in reference to the deputy president of the Senate who was until Saraki’s emergence, the highest political office holder in the party.
Saraki, Tambuwal’s entry The entry of Senator Saraki into the contest, one source said, could also sway Ekweremadu, who has been a steadfast loyalist of Saraki’s through his challenges as Senate President.
Tambuwal, another new comer to the PDP, is also said to be in a position to upset the contest in the South-South, especially given the alleged soft spot for him by Governor Nyesom Wike. “It is no secret that Wike is inclined to Tambuwal, but how he can sell him after selling Uche Secondus as national chairman would be a very tall order,” one PDP chieftain said.
Outside the South-South and the South-East, both Atiku and Turaki are deeply contesting for the loyalties of political leaders across the country. In Kogi In Kogi State, for example, the two leading aspirants have shared the loyalties of the two former PDP governors of the state, Ibrahim Idris, and Idris Wada.
Idris is said to be backing the Turaki campaign while Wada is backing Atiku. In the North, the Turaki campaign is said to be strong in the far North-West, especially in Zamfara and Kebbi.
Former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (retd), who one source said is a neighbour of Turaki in Birnin Kebbi, is also supporting him while associates of the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Gen. Aliyu Gusau (retd) are also said to be behind Turaki.
The Turaki campaign is also said to be reinforcing its strength among the Northern establishment through Col. Habibu Shuaibu (retd), who is the campaign Deputy Director-General (North).
Shuaibu, who served as military administrator in Niger and Plateau states besides helping to weave ties with political stakeholders in the two states it is alleged is also linking the Turaki campaign with the military establishment.
Shuaibu, who was until recently Chief of Staff to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida has, however, endorsed nearly all the PDP presidential aspirants who have visited him, notably saying last weekend that Senator Ahmed Makarfi’s entry into the race has restored his hope in Nigeria.
In North-East In the North-East, Atiku is besides the comfortable support he has in his Adamawa base also banking on the support of a former minister, Adamu Maina Waziri from Yobe State to project him in the North-East.
Turaki had picked a former steadfast Atiku loyalist, former Governor Boni Haruna as the director general of his campaign organisation, but the impact of that choice is yet to unfold in the state.
The Atiku campaign is, however, unfazed by what inside sources say as the seeming muscle and financial prowess of the Turaki campaign saying that experience from the three previous presidential campaigns as a reason for caution.